Women's World Twenty20 given go-ahead
The first women's World Twenty20 will be played alongside the men in England in 2009 opening up huge TV exposure opportunities, the ECB has confirmed. The women will play both the semis at the same ground, on the same day and same ticket as the men and then the final at Lord's will be the curtain raiser for the men's match.
Cricinfo revealed in December that the tournament was likely to get the go-ahead subject to financial approval which has now been granted by the ICC. Taunton, the home of women's cricket, will stage the group matches.
Clare Connor, the ECB's executive director of women's cricket, was understandably delighted by the ratification of the tournament. "The ECB's support and drive to get women's cricket showcased is fantastic," Connor told Cricinfo. "To think you could have forty thousand fans watching England-Australia women's final from Lord's before the men's - how exciting. Just brilliant. It's hard to put into words, it's so unprecedented. The number of people that will tune in across the world and see a superb day at Lord's.
"The budget the ICC have given for the staging of both these tournaments is very generous and it's as it should be, but it's still a huge step. We've just had the World Cup qualifiers, then two massive tournaments in the World Cup and the World Twenty20 next year, it's a very very exciting time.
"I would want to add huge credit for people who have worked for it - Gill McConway (Connor's predecessor), the ICC women's committee who proposed the tournament to the next committee up. The work that's been done to get to this point has been mammoth."
Steve Elworthy, the tournament's director, said: "The ECB are extremely proud that we will host the first global team competition that will culminate with the semi finals and final on the same day as the men's events. We must praise the ICC for their foresight in scheduling this event in this historic fashion."
The tournament will be contested by the same eight teams who will compete for the next World Cup, in Australia in March. They are Australia, England, India, New Zealand, South Africa, West Indies, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Whether these teams will head into the World Twenty20 with seeds based on their performances before or after the 50-over World Cup which predates it remains to be seen. The eight sides won't be too worried about that at the moment, for now it's a case of looking forward to competing on one of the biggest stages yet for them.
There have already been several trial days across the world where the women have been a curtain raiser for the men, largely with much success. The latest such event was when the Australia and England women were up first at the MCG ahead of the Australia and India men. The game went down a storm with the fans who had filtered in early and highlights on prime-time TV a week later showed their skills, albeit briefly.
The biggest chance yet to awaken the world comes next year. While the game could never hope to compete with the men on a large scale, women's cricket - including the contracts that are about to be announced for the England women - continues to head in the right direction.
Jenny Roesler (nee Thompson) is an assistant editor at Cricinfo